“Liam Neeson Emerges from the ‘Cancel Club’: A Comeback Journey”

Neeson’s brutally honest cameo in Donald Glover’s subversive comedy Atlanta marks the end of a near-perfect celebrity apology tour

'I am sorry': Liam Neeson

Cancel culture has just received a punch in the face from cinema’s greatest action dad. Liam Neeson, star of Taken and other popular beat ’em ups, seemed to have burned his career to the ground with an ill-advised and troubling anecdote about a revenge fantasy against a “black bastard” in 2019.

But now Neeson (69) has turned up in surreal comedy Atlanta parodying himself and making some pithy comments about how the rules are different for privileged white film stars such as he.

Atlanta is the auteur-esque project of actor and musician Donald Glover and one of the most subversive and racially astute shows on TV (for proof rewind to the season one episode featuring “Black Justin Bieber”).

But Neeson’s cameo takes it to another level of mind-bending self-awareness. Neeson materialises in a hallucinatory bar dubbed “the Cancel Club” and delivers a frank apology for his ill-chosen remarks of three years ago. He doesn’t so much break the fourth wall as drive a snow-plough through it (as he does in Cold Pursuit, the action flick that prompted his mind-bending revenge diatribe).

“You might have read about my transgression,” he tells rapper “Paper Boi” (Brian Tyree Henry), who has been tripping his head off in Amsterdam after eating a “Tibetan Space Cake”.

“What I said what I wanted to do to a black guy…  A friend of mine had been raped. I acted out of anger. I look back now and it honestly frightened me. I thought people, knowing who I once was, [that it would] would make clear who I am, who I’ve become. But, with all that being said… I am sorry. I apologise if I hurt people.”

It’s a frank mea culpa from an actor who, three years ago, appeared not to understand that there is no situation in which you can use the words “black bastard” without causing offence. That it’s delivered on a show whose audience can comfortably be described as “woke” makes it all the more powerful.

'You tried to ruin my career': Liam Neeson in Atlanta

Neeson has gone beyond the fake, publicist-drafted apologies standard when a celeb plants their foot in it. While he did say “sorry” the incident has also seemingly led to real soul-searching and growth. And on Atlanta he was prepared to hold his hands up.

And to then make an astute point about privilege. “The best and worst part of being white,” he tells Paper Boi, “is you don’t have to learn anything if you don’t want to.”

Neeson’s career was never in serious jeopardy though the controversy did put Cold Pursuit in deep freeze, with the LA premiere hastily cancelled in the aftermath of his interview with The Independent.

But he has kept his head down and crucially not made any further ill-advised comments (there was a surreal dad joke he cracked on Australian TV when he said he had once fallen in love while shooting a movie Down Under – but that the object of his affection had been “taken”).

He’s also got on with the job of being a gruff popcorn icon. Last year he appeared Ice Road – his second cold-themed action feature after Cold Pursuit – while in 2022 he is set to play Raymond Chandler’s gumshoe anti-hero Philip Marlowe in Neil Jordan’s Marlowe.

Plus he’s poked fun at the Neeson brand. He was hilarious in his recent Derry Girls cameo as a craggy RUC officer – a genuine bolt from nowhere, which provoked no howls of protest from Twitter.

tmg.video.placeholder.alt yEqi-RT3YoU

And with Atlanta he has demonstrated a willingness to admit to his mistakes – with a degree of honesty beyond most image-obsessed movie stars (candour and lack of cynical worldiness being what got him in trouble in the first place).

Perhaps the most jarring line in his Atlanta cameo is when Neeson tells Henry’s character that he “can’t stand” black people because “they tried to ruin my career”. Which isn’t strictly true, of course.

This willingness to take his blows and to then work at self-betterment is an anomaly in Hollywood, where the goal is to impose your narrative on the social media cycle. Neeson wasn’t having any of that.

He instead allowed the dust to settle and has now gone on one of the smartest shows on TV – and that rare comedy to offer an authentic Africa-American perspective – and allowed himself be ridiculed. To quote his favourite Taken line – he has a “particular set of skills”. And cancelling his own cancellation may one of them.

Related Posts

‘I consider myself a homemaker’: Julia Roberts details ‘pride’ over decision to step back from spotlight to raise her three children and laments the lack of good romcoms in recent years

Julia Roberts was once the queen of the romantic comedy, though she hasn’t made one in more than 20 years… until her new project Ticket to Paradise.The 54-year-old actress…

Is Nicolas Cage underneath all that fur? The beard hid a legend and was unrecognizable at the movie premiere.

Laurence Fishburne and Nicolas Cage (Credit: Emma McIntyre/Getty Images)Is that Nicolas Cage underneath all that fur?Apparently it was, as the idiosyncratic screen legend attended to the Beverly…

Weston Cage, Son of Nicolas Cage, Under Police Investigation for Alleged Attack on Mother

Weston is Nicolas’ oldest child and his only with Christina FultonFrom L: Nicolas Cage, Weston Cage and Christina Fulton. PHOTO: JOHN SHEARER/WIREIMAGE; GABRIEL OLSEN/FILMMAGIC; ROBIN L MARSHALL/GETTYWeston Coppola Cage is…

Nicolas Cage, FKA Twigs & Noah Jupe in ‘The Carpenter’s Son’ – Cannes Hot Project

Nicolas Cage, FKA twigs, Noah Jupe, Souheila YacoubGetty Images, Pip Nicolas Cage, FKA twigs, Noah Jupe and Souheila Yacoub are set to star in Egyptian-American director Lotfy Nathan’s The Carpenter’s Son exploring the rarely…

Nicolas Cage Takes on Unique Role in Horror Film: Jesus’ Childhood Story in Production

Nicolas Cage Horror Movie Involving Jesus’ Childhood Being ProducedUS actor Nicolas Cage attends the premiere of “Renfield” in New York City on March 28, 2023. (Photo … [+]AFP…

Octavia Spencer and Isabela Moner Join Mark Wahlberg’s ‘Instant Family

Octavia Spencer, Isabela Moner, Tig Notaro, Iliza Shlesinger, and Tom Segura have joined Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne in the Paramount comedy “Instant Family.”Wahlberg and Byrne will play a…